In my ongoing quest to rid the dance world of its Pirouette Anxiety (I like to think of myself as a Doctor of Turns), I am always on a search to find more ways to help dancers turn consistently and smoothly - and with as little angst as possible!
As is true in most things, my work is inspired by others, particularly my own students and the problems they present to me. Some of my dancers are quite analytical, some emotional, some visual, some verbal. They make me think about the many ways we use our bodies when we turn.
So today, I want to discuss yet another approach to turns: using the Force and the Energy. We need both to turn properly but people wrongly assume what each is and how to use it. Generally speaking, you need a lot of energy and very little force when you turn.
1. Think of your plie as Potential Energy, energy that is stored in your legs. The deeper your plie and the longer you can remain in your plie and don't finish it (i.e. don't straighten your support knee too quickly or before you begin the turn), the more suspension time you will have which means more time to complete multiple turns.
You want a LOT of this energy.
2. Think of your arms, head, and back as Force, an influence on an object (you), either a push or a pull.
- Your head snapping around will pull you.
- Your arms closing will pull you.
- Your back turning will push you.
You don't need a lot of this force. Why? Because there are 3 separate influences noted above (and if you want to get super technical, there are many others, such as the push off the floor from the back foot, the pull of the retire leg pressing back and turning out, the pull of the inner thigh muscles and deep rotators, and so on). Each of these forces is not simply added to the others but multiplied!
Many dancers wrongly assume they need a lot of force and when approaching multiple pirouettes they wind their arms back and twist at their waist. We all know what happens then: they spin rather than suspend. When they run out of juice, they sputter to a stop and jam their back foot into the floor to stop. But arms are just one element of force and by winding up too much, you override the other elements. Each of them needs to act equally.
Next time you take technique class, try this approach. Think of your plie as a spring that you are compressing in order to release it. Get as deep as you can and start your turn when the back leg hits retire but before your standing leg is entirely straight. Then use the center of the back of your head to spot, close the arms to a rounded first position and aim your back at the mirror. If you can, remember that each of those elements of force should be equal, with no one of them taking center stage.